Saturday, November 14, 2009

First Day of Counting

There is no question I enjoy watching the birds.
I do what I can to attract them to my yard, including spending an exorbitant amount of money feeding them and re-creating my yard to include more fruiting bushes and trees...for the birds. When I can watch them for a reason other than avoiding housework, so much the better! I'm counting birds for Project FeederWatch (see the post just below). me a geek, but I like being a citizen scientist. I also enjoy doing what I can to help mitigate the problems birds are having these days...fractured habitat being only a small problem. I can't encourage people enough to plant native plants; that's what the birds look for and they just happen to be the easiest plants to grow.

My binoculars are better than my camera's 'long' while I may have these photos miss-labeled, I know for sure I saw both White-crowned sparrows (a little brown bird with black and white-striped head with grey throat and belly), and at least one White-throated Sparrow (a little brown bird with black and white-striped head with gray breast and contrasting white throat, lined with a thin black line, quite distinctly set high above the breast and exactly under the mandible.) Both of these birds have brown stripes when young...which would be this time of year. I also know the White-throated Sparrow has a bit of yellow on the lores (that space between the eye and bill), while the White-crowned does not, and a darker bill than the orange-billed White-crowned. As I said, in spite of file-labeling, the first and third sparrow shots here are White-crowned sparrows and the middle one is the White-throated. Perhaps you can even see a hint of the yellow lores. (Thanks again, BosqueBill!!!)

In addition to feeding smaller birds,I just love the big corvids; from jays to crows to magpies...I encourage their visiting. I put out at least one cup of kibble every morning. Mostly it's the Black-billed Magpies that come, but often, this time of year, so do the Blue Jays. Once, I had a Stellar's Jay visit, too.

And last week, there was an American Crow on my back step. Course, that I haunt the grocery store for fat-scraps and today even garnered over a pound of actual meat scraps (free!) could be why they come. Not only do I often soak the kibble in bacon fat or water (fat is VERY important this time of year...and is why doughnuts are better for birds than bread), but I also put out meat and fat scraps for the big guys.

I also empty my quick-kill
(no poison!) mousetraps onto the feeder.

And when I cook bacon, before I separate the strips, I first cut off the ends of excess fat into narrow strips. These strips of fat can be sort of pulled out into fat-worms; the birds love 'em! This fat bird has crumbs on his bill...can you see the bit of beef?

Speaking of Magpies, poor Zeus hates them. I've talked of this before...they pick at the marrow-bones I give Zeus...but today five of them ganged up on the poor guy! True, he had a bone, but I was putting all manner of goodies out for them; but no, they wanted a chance at the bone. Finally, Zeus had had enough I guess, and buried the bone. The sad thing is...he buried it under a new $50 tree; darned near dug the tree up and broke off a major branch that will surely kill the thing. Sigh...

For Project FeederWatch, a person is to count the largest number of a single species in the count area. Each person picks their own count area (mine everything I can see inside the tall trees that surround my yard), watches as long as they want for two consecutive days per week. Fly-overs do not count.

Today I saw: 4 Blue Jays, 5 Magpies, 6 Pine Siskin, 13 Goldfinch (American and Lesser, I think; but I can't tell them apart in their winter dress), 7 House Finch, 6 Dark-eyed Junco, 3 Black-capped Chickadees, 1 Mtn. Chickadee, 2 Downey Woodpeckers, 1 Northern Flicker (Red-shafted), 13 Red-winged Blackbirds, 16 Eurasian Collared-doves, 3 European Starlings, 1 White-crowned Sparrow, 1 White-throated Sparrow, 25 House Sparrows, 1 White-breasted Nuthatch, and 1 Evening Grosbeak. That sounds like a's not. I think I'll have more species when my new trees and shrubs get bigger (assuming my dog doesn't dig them up!)

Here's the single Evening Grosbeak
that I saw today. I'm so sad to hear they are on a serious decline. They are the sweetiest sounding of the first bird-calls I learned to recognize. The gentle peeps remind me of chickens' chicks.

Oh, and yes...occasionally I get birds of prey; owls, hawks and other raptors. It's all about habitat; when I had a koi-pond I got ducks and herons. Here I draw lots of birds, so I get those birds which feed on birds. Not often...and it doesn't bother me a bit; though I do hope more starlings, collared-doves and house sparrows (weedie-birds not indigenous to America) get hit than anything else! Watching the Red-winged Blackbirds feed (those stripy, brown ones are the females or young males!), it struck me how seldom one sees the 'red' this time of year. I wonder if they hid it, so as not to agitate neighbors, so that they can all feed and fatten up for the winter...and rest after the breeding season. Hey, that's tough work! I wonder if my thoughts have merit.

What a life; I sit most mornings with my coffee and watch out the huge bay-window...watching, sometimes counting, often photographing the birds that visit.


Anonymous said...

Citizen scientists are just as important as scientists with degrees. Somebody needs to do the work!

Beverly said...

You're very sweet,


LOL Thank you, ScienceGuy...for stopping by.

Sunny said...

Very interesting post! I would like to know how the feeder is made, the one in the last couple photos. Can you give a description? I see the suet feeder below....

Beverly said...

The feeder is one I improvised after raccoons tore apart an expensive feeder. It was a plastic V-shaped trough with a roof over-top, which sat on a wooden base. All I could salvage was the base, to which I attached four small chains. When I got tired of every big, weedy-bird in town scarfing down home-made suet I put out for smaller birds...I got the brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) of attaching a store-bought suet cage, with staples, to the bottom of the wooden base. I made sure the opening worked in position, before I nailed it in place...and rigged a hook-and-eye closure from a short piece of wire I had on hand. I love it...and so do the woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches that frequent my yard.

The funniest sight though, is when the Magpies try to feed from the thing; flapping wings, tail spread...they are not built to hang upside-down! The big guys don't try it often; mostly because I have a huge tray, high off the ground, that I fill in the morning with meat scraps and fat trimmings. I've had ten-eleven Magpies here at once...thank the gods they now leave the other feeders pretty much alone!